Saturday, January 12, 2008

Needles we do & don't like

Good afternoon knitters. Today I am going to review the various new needles that have found their way into my knitting lately.

Let's begin straight away with the latest must-haves, the Knitpicks Harmony Options interchangeable needles. Here's a reminder of what they look like:

I am using them to knit Joe's red Edan sweater, of which I've completed a sleeve and a bit. Want to see how it's coming along?

So, a few facts and opinions about these needles:
  • They are wood.

  • They are pretty as a picture. When they first came out, people wondered if variegated, coloured needles would be confusing to work with. They're not. At least for the plain red yarn I'm using to make Edan. I think it helps that the colours used in the needles are actually quite subtle IRL. It's not like they are neon rainbow stripes. So, no problems there.

  • The needle heads screw on to the cables using a nickel screw fixture. Other knitters have complained that the needle heads come loose, or don't fit properly. Well, I have found these to fit fine. No problems screwing the heads on. They do tend to work a bit loose as you knit, so I've got into the habit of giving the head of the empty end of the needle a little twist to tighten it up at the beginning of each row. Incidentally, just the other day the Yarn Harlot made a casual reference to using pliers to firmly fix the heads on interchangeable circs. If she thinks that's a normal thing to do, then my guess is that screw fittings are kind of inevitably going to come loose. In which case, I'm not going to take that as a basis for criticising the Harmony Options.

  • They are pointy. Pointy as a very, very pointy thing. And that makes them a dream to knit with. I never knew what a difference really pointy needles could make. For me, the main benefit is that I can suddenly knit without looking, and without dropping stitches. The super pointy ends on those needles are like stitch-seeking missiles. They nose their way through each stitch almost before I can catch them at it. Oh yes, I am a newly-converted Pointy Needle fan.

In sum, I'm giving these Knitpicks Harmony Options 8 out of 10 because they are both beautiful and functional, and I bet that score would go up if I borrowed Stephanie's pliers.

Next, let's consider the Susan Bates metallic dpns I was on about the other day. I've been trying out the smallest size, which is 1.5mm (it turns out, not 1.75 as I previously thought).

I've been using them for my Seeded Fair Isle socks. Which are not going that well due to my being unable to count to 16. Here's the cuff. It may hit the frog pond soon.

About these needles:

  • This is the Susan Bates Sock Set of dpns. It's a multipack of four sizes, from 1.5mm to 2.25mm. You get five needles in each size.

  • They are very pretty colours. The ones I'm using are metallic blue; other colours in the set include red and gold.

  • They are light, and flexible. The material is some branded stuff called Silvalume, which is basically aluminium. Some knitters find them too bendy, and I can see why. It's a good job I'm a naturally loose knitter. I wouldn't recommend them if you knit tightly, otherwise your yarn will be more rigid than the pins.

  • They are 7" long, and that's the biggest downside. It's excessively long for socks, although these might be good for lace (not something I know a lot about yet). The upshot for me is that I've got miles of long, sharp, thin, bendy needle sticking out all over the place when I'm only trying to knit a relatively small bit of fabruc. It's unnecessary and it's a pain in the ass. In my experience, dpns are standardly 6", and even that can sometimes be too much.
Marks out of 10: I'm giving these 4 because the excessive length makes them a pain to work with. And I am only awarding 4 marks because I am giving them the benefit of the doubt: maybe they are perfect for lace doilies or something. For socks, I wouldn't bother.

Finally, let's say a few words about the Brittany dpns that I'm using to make my silk Jaywalkers. They are the ones on the left in this picture (I haven't tried the Sox Stix yet).

And here is the sock:

What you need to know about these dpns:

  • They are birch. Light and warm in the hand, more yielding than steel but not bendy.

  • This particular set is 2.5mm

  • They are dinky, only 5" long. Susan Bates take note. This is the perfect length for socks. On my Jaywalkers, most of the space on each needle is used up by actual knitting, with just enough room left at each end so the stitches don't fall off. You can concentrate on your knitting without spending the whole time manipulating and managing a bunch of porcupine quills. The sole complaint I have about these tiny needles is that I'm afraid I'll lose one.

Marks out of 10: I'm giving these 9 because when you are using them, you hardly notice they are there, and that is a wonderful quality in a needle. It means I can give all my attention and love to the yarn. Highly recommended.

Until next time, happy knitting.


sandra said...

Thanks for the info, I'm about to invest in some circulars,this was very useful.
Love the socks by the way.

Jadielady said...

Wow... those circulars are VERY pointy!
I'd love a pair but just cant' afford them... yet ;)
I might ask for them for my birthday.

Kay said...

I treated myself to a set of Sox Stix before Christmas, and they're so lovely.

Mmm Harmony wood. I have the regular Options set and I adore it... I'm so tempted to order the wooden ones, too.

Fiona said...

Definitely agree on the recommended sock DPN length (and the Jaywalker looks great BTW).

I use Boye interchangeable needles. They come in a great set - very neat and helps me to be organised. Very pointy too. These also unscrew themselves as you knit. I find it useful to remember to tighten every so many stitches - personal preference. After a few rounds of doing this, they stop unscrewing themselves.

Susan @ Damn, Knit & Blast It said...

I agree regarding the length of the Susan Bate - I'm doing some gloves with them - 7" needles and trying to do fingers - it's impossible!

Edan looks good - how are you finding the yarn amounts? I'm doing Jaeger's Bowie(same pattern/different name I think) and it's going to be touch and go if I need more yarn...

Judy said...

Re the looseness of the Harmony needles--my experience is that the wood part of the needle is loose in the nickel fitting, not where the nickel screws onto the cable.

Moggle said...

Great review. I started using harmony DPNs last night and they are great.